US Secretary of State John Kerry has said the US will defend itself and its "treaty ally" South Korea. The announcement comes amid what the US called "unacceptable rhetoric from the North Korean government."
At a press conference alongside his South Korea counterpart Yun Byung-se in Washington on Tuesday, John Kerry said the amount of rhetoric coming out of Pyongyang in recent days was "extraordinary."
"The bottom line very simply is that what Kim Jong-Un has been choosing to do is provocative, it is dangerous, reckless, and the United States will not accept the DPRK as a nuclear state," Kerry said, referring to North Korea's new young leader and using the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"The United States will do what is necessary to defend ourselves and our allies," Kerry added. "We are fully prepared and capable of doing so and the DPRK understands that."
On Wednesday, North Korea barred South Korean workers from entering a Kaesong industrial complex jointly run by the two countries. The North has been threatening for days to close the plant, which is one of the country's only sources of foreign currency.
North Korea restarting Yongbyon reactor
Kerry's news conference followed North Korea's announcement earlier in the day that it will restart operations at its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, the latest in a series of hard line threats. The five-megawatt, graphite-moderated reactor was closed in 2007 as part of international nuclear disarmament talks that have since stalled.
The reactor was the sole source of plutonium for Pyongyang's atomic weapons program. The country's remaining plutonium stockpile is believed to be enough for four to eight bombs. When fully operational, the reactor is capable of churning out enough plutonium in a year to produce one nuclear bomb.
Kerry said North Korea's decision to restart its nuclear facilities would be a "direct violation" of its obligations and a "provocative act ... completely contrary to the road that we have traveled all these years."
Threats 'not a game'
At the Washington news conference, South Korea's foreign minister reaffirmed his country's commitment to working with the US amid the North's latest development.
"We agree to further strengthen credible and robust deterrence vis-a-vis North Korea's nuclear and conventional provocations," Yun said.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General and former South Korea foreign minister Ban Ki-moon warned "nuclear threats are not a game."
"The current crisis has already gone too far ... Things must begin to calm down," Ban said at a press conference in Andorra, adding that negotiations were the only viable way forward.
dr/jm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)